Joe Garcia running hard – like, against a clock or something
Poor Joe Garcia.
He becomes a congressman, finally, after trying twice unsuccessfully and now seems to be running — against the clock, perhaps? — to get things done.
Congressman Joe Garcia talks to reporters outside Cafe Abracci.
While he is busy earning our public dollars and voters’ confidence, our 26th district’s newly-sworn U.S. Congressman hasn’t even been in office for a month and already names are lining up to run against him in 2014.
Even on the day earlier this month the former Florida Public Service Commission chairman was sworn in — after he charmed voters on the third try, albeit on an Obama high — the talk in that room in D.C. was about who might take back the seat once owned by the Republican Party, most recently by King David “Nine Lives” Rivera, who became the focus of an FBI investigation into his ties with another Democratic Congressional candidate (read: plantidate) right smack in the middle of the most critical campaign of his recent political life.
The newest name: State Rep. Jose Felix “One More Pepe” Diaz, who said
Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell
He joins State Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia, as well as School Board Member Carlos Curbelo and, yes, Miami-Dade Commission Vice Chair Lynda Bell.
I know, because we have mutual “friends”, that Bell and Curbelo have been encouraged to run. The School Board member confirmed that he was flattered to have been considered among the others and it was something he would not rule out, of course, but that he was “happy on the school board” blah, blah, which is what they all say.
I was unable to reach Senator Garcia but the senior DLP did confirm to Ladra that he would seriously consider a bid. Of course, that was before he got that new juicy job at a national firm where he’ll make even more money than he earned at Becker Poliakoff. While it would be a natural progression for the man who calls himself “the flagship” of the brotherhood (read: the face of the wounded three-headed DLP monster), it might mean a big sacrifice personally, which he admitted was a possible obstacle.
“It’s still something you look at,” the Senator told me. “It’s always been something I looked at. It is a tremendous opportunity.”
And Ladra bets talk that his brother, former Florida Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla – who also lost in November to Obama, er, I mean State Rep. Jose Javier “Who?” Rodriguez — will jump into that window when he comes out of hiding, may be just that: Talk. The Dean, who is the brains of the three-headed monster (former State Rep. and Miami-Dade School Board Member Renier “Baby DLP” Diaz de la Portilla is the heart), would do better if he waits for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to retire, eventually, or be named to a cabinet position by whatever Republican takes the White House in 2016 and run for that seat. It’s his neighborhood, his gente — his base.
Other names mentioned for the District 26 rematch include one-time Rivera primary opponent and Republican Superwoman Marili Cancio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and his son Jeb “Jebby” Bush, Jr., who couldn’t even get the votes to be appointed to the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority Board (more on that later) and probably needs a little more time in the oven. Or the microwave. And I almost forgot, former Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, fresh off his county mayoral bid loss last year.
If you think that sounds, um, in-ter-est-ing, imagine GOP strategist Ana Navarro. The former staffer to the elder Diaz-Balart and adviser to the presidential campaigns for Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008 and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman last year is elusive with Ladra but she has confirmed to others that she has been nudged about a possible run by “prominent national and Florida Republicans.” But why is it unlikely? Not because she can’t do it but because (A) she shouldn’t and (B) I would suggest she won’t take the paycut that a campaign strategist and CNN political pundit would suffer.
School Board Member Carlos Curbelo
The big buzz early on was on Flores, whose profile has risen sharply in the last year couple of years. But, note the stress on was. While she did not tell Ladra that it was ruled out completely, others have said she is going to stay in the state senate, where she returned without opposition last year. Flores told me she has three full terms left and can weigh her options. “I’m very happy at in the State Senate,” blah, blah (told ya). But I have a suspicious feeling that she is holding out for a county commission seat after Commissioner Javier Souto runs for mayor of the newly formed city of Westchester (more on that later).
Now, the happy chat is about Curbelo, a student and mentee of U.S. Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart. Or was. Before “One More Pepe” Diaz piped up. But only because nobody thinks Big Brother DLP is going to jump in.
Congressman Garcia — who was named to the immigration subcomittee after his installation, had a press conference at Miami’s Freedom Tower this week about the hot-button issue, has met with Voto Latino and the Hispanic Caucus and was honored by the Venezuelan American Democratic Club Wednesday — told Ladra he was focused on representing the people in his district the next two years.
Yes, that is Raulito Martinez to the Congressman's right. The other guy is one of the Venezuelan Americans from the Democratic Club.
And that he wasn’t too worried.
“It’s politics,” he said about the jostling, outside Cafe Abracci in Coral Gables, where the Venezuelan group, a growing constituency in his district, hosted him.
But he also indicated that the Florida GOP is not going to swipe the seat back just like that.
“They have to figure out the new reality of South Florida,” Garcia said. “The new reality of the electorate has much more moderate points of view and they [the GOP, I assumed] are still out of the mainstream.”
Then, for an example, he went back to the issue that he’s been driving him lately and given him an avenue to steal some thunder away from GOP U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio – which I bet is going to be part of his job for the Dems in D.C. – and what he called his “evolution” on immigration (more on that later).
“I was for comprehensive immigration reform and my opponent was not,” Garcia told me, just before being whisked away by none other than Raulito Martinez, son of former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez — a nice land for the younger Raul after having a hand in Florida’s wildly successful Obama ground game and helping Garcia with his campaign.
Which leads Ladra back to Rivera, who — let’s face it — would give any of the aforementioned a run for their primary color green. Las malas lenguas say he might very well believe he has another life left in him. Rivera would not even entertain the thought with me but rather lovingly spanked me and other political reporters for being so futuristic not only with Garcia but with with his old friend Rubio, who everyone is writing about as if he already were the next president. (Well he is moving to D.C., the Miami Herald reporter. And more on that later).
“Let Joe Garcia be in office for a month, will ya,” he complained, and Ladra could hear the smile over the phone.
But I wouldn’t put it past him. While there is that nasty investigation into his campaign tactics that will always come back to haunt him, and Garcia is right about a changing demographic, many observers think that some Dem victories in Florida were on the Barack Express and that Garcia won’t hold on in a non-presidential year in a district where 45 percent voted for Mitt Romney.
And they are now tied, one for one (Garcia’s first congressional run loss was in 2008 against U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart).
So, we need a rematch to settle this once and for all.